Sexual Undercurrents


Riffing on Leanne Shapton's new book, Swimming Studies, Carolyn Kormann points to the longstanding, if sometimes tragic, connection between swimming and sexuality:

"I believed, for a while, in the aphrodisiacal qualities of my swimming," Shapton writes. Sex and swimming go way back. The first swimmer in Western literature was Leander. He swam a mile across the Hellespont each night to see his lover, Hero. She guided him into port with a torch. Then, one night, storm winds blew out the torch and Leander drowned. Hero, devastated, flung herself into the sea. Lord Byron swam the Hellespont, in 1810, and found it tough going, "so much so, that I doubt whether Leander’s conjugal powers must not have been exhausted in his passage to Paradise." (Shapton’s belief did not survive her experience, either. After watching one of her swim meets, her husband was "like a man who has just sat through an interesting lecture and is now peckish.")

(Photo of a Shanghai Holiday Inn pool 24 stories in the air, via Gawker)